Please Don't Mess With My Bible

…. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
I Corinthians, 13:13

As far back as memory takes me I have been aware of the triplet “Faith, Hope and Charity”. I recall going to Sunday School as a very young child wearing a necklace from which dangled three small symbolic charms: a cross; an anchor; and a heart. Faith, Hope and Charity.

Somehow during the years along the way to my old age, unnoticed and unchallenged, the words “Faith, Hope and Charity” morphed into “Faith, Hope and Love”. I find the substitution of the word “love” for “charity” to be a most disturbing, unfortunate, and to me – unacceptable – happenstance.

It’s not that I have anything against love, mind you. I have succumbed to that emotion, in all of its facets, more times in my life than I can remember. But in today’s world, the word “love” is tossed about like a dandelion’s seeds in a summer breeze. I too, am guilty of its misuse and overuse: “I love little puppy dogs”; “I love chocolate ice cream”; “I loved that movie”. “Love you” has become a substitute for “goodbye” when ending a telephone conversation or a brief surprise encounter with an acquaintance at the grocery store. There is no need to expand on this observation – it’s all too obvious because it’s all too common.

Allow me to quote a knowledgeable gentleman – a certain Mr. Webster – as to the meaning of the word “love”.

1) Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desire; affection based on admiration, benevolence or common interests; 2) warm attachment, enthusiasm or devotion; an unselfish concern for the good of another; the fatherly concern of God for humankind.

(There are more – some rather explicit – but I think I’ve included the main ideas.)

Please grant me your indulgence one more time so that I may quote the same source on the subject of “charity”.

1) Benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity; 2) generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; aid given to those in need; public provision for the relief of the needy; 3) a gift for public benevolent purposes; 4) lenient judgment of others; synonymous with mercy.

Now here’s the thing. I have always considered the words “…but the greatest of these is charity” to be a reminder – a suggestion – even perhaps a gentle rebuke – that we should be compassionate, understanding, generous, tolerant and forgiving. And I wonder what message is conveyed to those of today’s generations as they encounter the phrase “but the greatest of these is love”. The concept is not quite the same, is it?

I sure wish that I knew what committee came up with the bright idea of making the vocabulary substitution. I would really “love” to have a word or two with those guys.

(By way of clarification: I grew up with the King James version of the Bible.)

Jeanne Peck

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